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Builders, Cutters and Maintainers: Cutters, the "Death Knell"

April 5, 2011

There are employees in almost every company who do damage.  At Select International we have coined the term “Cutters” to refer to employees who are so deficient in key abilities and motivations that they negatively impact metrics such as revenue generation, profitability, customer service ratings, turnover, safety and/or worker morale. Cutters are truly underperforming employees.  Although some stand out like lighted billboards, many others make a career out of hiding their liabilities.  Examples of Cutter behaviors include the following:

The service worker who consistently makes customers feel like their very presence is an imposition.

  • The leader who is in over his head, lacking vision and making poor strategic decisions.
  • The employee who blames and creates morale issues among co-workers and management.
  • The “lukewarm” account manager who has lost the passion to track down new leads and grow accounts.
  • The worker who believes it is okay to steal if it is just small amounts.
  • The employee who is a gossip, sharing inappropriate information and inciting rumors.
  • The manager who’s damaging leadership style causes good employees to turnover.

The intense world of professional sports provides a window into the affects of even small talent differences. Consider that the statistical performance differences between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates is less than 5% across key metrics such as batting, pitching, base running and fielding, yet the Pirates have racked up 18 losing seasons, a North American sports record, while the Yankees have made the playoffs for 18 years straight and won 3 pennants. Over and over again we confirm that even small performance differences in talent across an organization have an enormous impact on overall success.

Today’s leadership understands that competent people are behind every successful product, technology, ad campaign, customer interaction, market strategy, merger, acquisition, and so on. So every person better be good! It is not enough to have an organization where some of the leaders are competent and some of the service workers are customer oriented and some of the sales people grow accounts and some of the care givers are compassionate and some of the assemblers are safety conscious. Today highly competent people are a REQUIREMENT in every single job. Mediocre and poor performers are a death knell announcing the demise of an organization.

Leaders should not feel legally or morally obligated to keep Cutters nor should they feel predestined to continue hiring them. After performance discussions, your role as a leader is to remove Cutters. You heard correct. Do not continue to train, coach or develop them – remove them. Hard-working, productive employees whose paychecks depend on the success of the company are counting on you to make these tough decisions.

The Ultimate Hiring Manager’s Guide

Kevin Klinvex Kevin Klinvex was a founding partner of Select International, acquired by PSI. He is a thought leader in organization-wide hiring and retention programs. His work focused on combining powerful testing and assessment tools with the best in web-based delivery and data tracking. Kevin co-authored the best-selling book, Hiring Great People.